NDAA Alert: Have the Indefinite Detentions Already Begun?

October 1st, 2012

Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year old US Citizen slain by drones after being mistakenly listed on the Obama administration’s kill list

Civil liberties activists around the US have been in a state of alarm ever since the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011. This particular military appropriations bill did not just contain funding for national defense — it also included a wildly unconstitutional provision which grants the government the extraordinary power to indefinitely detain “terrorism” suspects without charge or trial.

In response to this, a group of famous activists and journalists filed suit. A team including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Naomi Wolf filed Hedges v. Obama in federal court, earning an injunction banning the use of the unlawful detention provision. However, the Obama administration immediately and aggressively appealed, earning a stay in appellate court and thus re-establishing the alleged legality of the detention of US citizens without a trial. As Salon is reporting, Chris Hedges’ all-star team took to Reddit to discuss the case in a Q&A session with the public and explained that they believe that the administration’s swift legal response indicates that the government may already be holding US citizens in Guantanamo Bay under the NDAA detention provision.

If the Law Is Just Theoretical, Why Rush to Reverse the Court’s Ruling?

Politicians often push the law further than the Constitution allows in an attempt to see what judges will permit. If the code in question were a theoretical and new security provision, then for it to be ruled unconstitutional would simply mean future suspects couldn’t be dealt with in this new way. This would not necessitate a swift response, or even a response at all by Obama’s attorneys.

Responding to Reddit users, Chris Hedges said, “Since they [the Obama administration's lawyers] were so aggressive it means that once Judge Forrest declared the law invalid, if they were using it, as we expect, they could be held in contempt of court. This was quite disturbing, for it means, I suspect, that U.S. citizens, probably dual nationals, are being held in military detention facilities almost certainly overseas and maybe at home.”

Could this really be true? Could our government be engaging in extra-judicial indefinite detentions of American citizens at “open secret” facilities like Guantanamo Bay? It’s hard to tell at this point, but judging by recent history, it seems frighteningly plausible.

US Civil Liberties in the Age of the Kill List

Decades back, most US citizens assumed that Americans would never be held without trial by their own government. The idea that the President could pen a kill list and send forth drones to bomb and kill the people on that list would have have seemed an absurdity. After all, these are the types of atrocities carried out by dictators around the world. America’s main political theme is our obsession with the protection of fundamental human rights, so this could never happen here, right?

Times have changed. The government spies on citizens whether they are suspected of a crime or not. At least 3 US citizens have been killed without a trial in unmanned drone strikes, two of which were included on the President’s kill list. The main reason that the right to a trial was established was to ensure that a third party of some sort (particularly, one’s peers and a judge) could weigh the prosecution’s claims before a government imprisons or executes a citizen. This established right goes back to the Magna Carta, authored in the 13th century in response to the atrocities of Bad King John.

The most egregious recent extra-judicial killing was that of 16-year old Colorado-born Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. He was falsely listed on the allegedly precise kill list as a 21-year old militant. This incompetent categorization proved fatal for the innocent teenager. He lost his life in a drone bombing which, according to locals, turned a barbecue with friends and family into a difficult-to-understand tragedy.

Given the fact that the US government has recently begun carrying out extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens, it seems likely that the hurried manner in which the Obama administration rushed to stay the injunction against these illegal detentions was motivated by the fact that there are already US citizens being held in facilities like Guantanamo Bay under allegations of terrorism.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.